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Virtual Orchard goes large

Posted 23/7/2012

First of all, let me apologise for the hiatus of blogs since the harvest in September. Poor I know but a lot has happened in the time that has passed and I guess I have been rather pre-occupied. OK, so I'm possibly being a bit cryptic, apologies again, just lots of updates and not sure where to start. Maybe I'll just cut the waffle and spit it out. I've left my job...

...the one that used to bring home the bacon as it were and, by pure accident I'm now a full time cider maker!! I know, how did that happen, after all I have always said that Virtual Orchard (VO) would always be just a hobby. Maybe I was just finding excuses not to take the plunge and commit to making a product of which I absolutely love every part of the process: from long days picking apples, long winters pruning trees, to hearing kind words of appreciation from the drinkers which ultimately make it all worth while.

Hard Core will always be my flagship cider, after all it won me the fantastic CAMRA accolade and is also probably the purest cider available and one which can truly claim to made from local apples from private orchards of which all the fruit would otherwise have gone to waste. As close to organic as you can possibly get and bursting with flavour. However, for Hard Core there truly is a limit on how much I can produce. Not through lack of supply you understand, merely a function of economies of scale: I physically do not have the time to pick fruit from every tree that is offered and to drive 15 miles to collect fruit from a single tree is probably doing more harm to the environment that me saving a few kilos of apples! Sad I know, but you have to be realistic about these things.

So how am I going to make VO a full time job? Good question. Well, since leaving my wonderful job in IT I have been talking, and listening to lots of folk and the one message that rings loud and clear is this, if I don't make enough local cider to go around then someone else will. And what's worse, they may not care where the fruit comes from: Chile, New Zealand, USA, so it's never going to be the product that I would aspire to make, and just local in terms of the delivery address for the fruit.

Well it would seem that I am having a run of good luck, albeit not enough to win the lottery in the last few weeks, and I happened to make a very important visit about 3 weeks ago to an orchard that I had known about for years but had never done anything about. All I will say for now is that there is a commercial orchard not far from Milton Keynes that takes huge pride in producing quality fruit and they are very proud of it too... and rightly so. OK ok, I'm waffling again. Long story short: VO will be using the wonderful fruit from this orchard to make another two, possibly three new ciders for 2013, including a single varietal cider which I am really excited about. So the plan, in short is to make around 20,000 litres of cider this harvest!! Hence, this IS now my day job.

2012 is turning out rather unexpectedly it would seem. Who would have thought I'd be going from IT to full time cider maker. Actually, this is one thing I love about my career to date... if you had asked me 25 years ago what I would be doing now, cider making would have been about as far from my thoughts as travelling to Mars. Exciting and scary don't begin to describe how I am feeling right now but one things for sure, VO is going big and if you want to help me make it work, then go drink some Hard Core.

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